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Attacks went early at Page Valley, and I followed, but it became clear from the onset that the 1/3 of the field riding for Kelly Benefits Strategies (14/46 total riders) had a plan well beyond clotting. Their plan, however, couldn't contain Battley's Russ Langley, who launched with, then dropped, a first-lap Kelly attack.
Langley dangled out front for some time, then Kelly's Rick Norton--a former pro--escaped and managed to join Langley. The two formed a dangerous pair, even with 60 hard miles ahead.
|Russ Langley (Battley) and Rick Norton (KBS-LSV)|
The previous year, 2008, I'd watched Navigators--Rick's former professional team--dominate the very same event at Clarendon.
That had started me on bike racing.
I didn't get to the point where I could even race with Russ and Rick until 2011. For the most part, I watched them ride away from me. Rick won the Masters MABRA BAR and nearly won the 1/2 BAR in the same year. Langley won a lot of races, usually soloing off the front, as he did at Page Valley to win the 2011 edition of the race we now contested.
In some ways, they're contrasts in style, Langley winning in ways he really shouldn't win, Rick winning in ways that, in retrospect, seems precisely calculated. Langley these days seems disinterested in winning; he's more focused on helping his teammates and putting on displays of stunning power. Norton has long been a mentor and teacher for riders from top young riders from Nate Wilson to Blair Berbert.
But at Page Valley, there they were, the two of them, off the front.
After several attempts, six of us managed to put together a chase. It inevitably included Kelly's R Muio and Zac Felpel as well as Russ' teammate, the El Salvadorable Jose Escobar. It also included ABRT's George Ganoung, who's among the best Masters time trialists in the country.
After several laps, we latched onto Russ and Rick.
|Catching Langley and Norton|
Even later, with two to go, Scott Giles and NCVC's Mark Hyatt and Matthew Thomas bridged up.
The field, now down to 20, had hovered behind us throughout. I'd caught glimpses and the chase moto had pulled out of the gap more than once. If they had caught us, Battley would bring several powerhouses and Kelly would certainly contribute several as well. My chances would have been over.
|Giles, Thomas, and Hyatt Bridge to Break|
But we stayed away, thanks to Kelly's Zac Felpel and to Russ Langley, who, with 12 miles to go, put in three minutes of sustained diesel on the lower climb, setting up an attack by his teammate, Jose, that shut the door on anything catching us.
In the finishing stretch, Rick attacked in the very place Jose had attacked on the previous lap, and I barely held on, my legs cramping horribly. I recovered for the finishing sprint to the finish, but not enough to contest Ben, Jose, and even Rick.
It had been a beautiful race, as complex as a chess match, impossible to recall or see all the moves, as several riders told me afterwards.
I've tried to recall what happened in the above graphic, but I'm confident it's not exactly right.
The moves that made the race, however, belong to Russ and Rick. They seized the decisive moments, both early and late, that decided the contest. They held the race up for their teammates on a platter, and for those few of us who witnessed it (or suffered through it), it was a beautiful display of bike racing.
Fogle and Escobar aptly responded, and they deserve their places. They left me (and everyone else) in the dust, but my hat goes off to the old guys, the kingmakers, the powers behind the thrones.